06MOSCOW12000, DRAFT MOSCOW LEGISLATION MAY LIMIT “RELIGIOUS

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06MOSCOW12000 2006-10-26 11:37 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow

VZCZCXRO0648
PP RUEHDBU
DE RUEHMO #2000/01 2991137
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 261137Z OCT 06
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4538
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MOSCOW 012000 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/24/2016 
TAGS: PGOV KDEM PHUM PREL RS
SUBJECT: DRAFT MOSCOW LEGISLATION MAY LIMIT "RELIGIOUS 
AGITATION" 
 
 
Classified By: Ambassador William J. Burns: 1.4 (b) and (d). 
 
1. (SBU) Summary. The Moscow City Duma is considering a 
quality-of-life bill which, if adopted in its present form, 
would allow authorities to fine those engaged in many forms 
of street solicitation, including "religious agitation." 
Some religious organizations here worry that if passed as 
currently written, the bill, which targets many types of 
public activity, not just proselytizing, could be used as a 
tool to restrict their missionary activities.  The Ambassador 
has already brought concerns over the proposed legislation to 
the attention of Moscow Mayor Yuriy Luzhkov.  Embassy will 
also discuss the issue with Moscow City Duma Chairman 
Vladimir Platonov.  End Summary. 
 
---------------------------------- 
Bill To Protect the "Public Order" 
---------------------------------- 
 
2. (SBU) In May, the Moscow City Duma passed in a first 
reading a series of amendments to the Moscow City Code for 
Administrative Violations that establish penalties for 
"pestering" and "violation of public order in the form of 
solicitation of citizens for the purposes of purchase/sale, 
barter, or acquisition of goods; or for purposes of 
fortune-telling, begging, male or female prostitution, 
religious agitation, or imposing other services in public 
places."  A second reading is expected in November, with a 
final (third) reading to take place soon afterward.  The 
legislation could take effect as early as the first quarter 
of 2007.  Anton Paleyev, Moscow City Duma Deputy and member 
of the Moscow City Duma Commission on Interethnic and 
Inter-religious Affairs, in an October 17 meeting described 
the amendments as an attempt to address minor "quality of 
life" problems that are not covered by current federal 
legislation. 
 
3. (C) Paleyev predicted that the religious agitation 
provision would be included in the adopted code.  The 
Commission's Expert Council, which includes representatives 
from many religious organizations, approved the current 
language.  According to Paleyev, the article is necessary 
because prostitution, panhandling (not just homeless people, 
but even people pretending to be priests), pestering 
passers-by with religious literature, etc., is getting worse. 
 In Moscow, Paleyev said, there are over 1000 registered 
religious organizations, over 50 religious denominations, and 
over 100 nationalities.  He worried that "religious 
agitation" might lead to friction among the various groups. 
 
 
4. (C) The article under consideration is directed against 
any "pestering" that violates the public order in the city. 
This would include religious agitation (intrusive 
proselytizing and aggressively giving out religious 
literature, etc.) in public places, but only if it unduly 
imposes upon Moscow citizens.  Paleyev editorialized that 
faith is a private matter, and thought no one should be 
forced to listen to someone asking them personal questions 
about their religious beliefs on the street.  The new 
legislation, which he said is based on "morality," is meant 
to protect Muscovites' privacy.  Paleyev described the code 
modifications as "quality of life" amendments, targeting 
public order, not freedom of speech.  Religious organizations 
can use other legal methods for their religious activities, 
such as the media and legally organized meetings, he said. 
 
5. (U) Commercial fliers and advertisements that are 
distributed outside of metro stations and stores would not be 
covered by the legislation, Paleyev clarified because the 
fliers do not impose, do not try to convince, and do not 
violate the right to privacy. 
 
6. (U) Punishment for violating the article would be a simple 
warning for the first offense, then a fine for each 
subsequent violation (100-300 rubles -- about USD 4-12). 
There are no harsher penalties for repeated violations of the 
article.  The legislation's goal is to warn and prevent such 
behavior, not punish it, Paleyev said. 
 
--------------------- 
Reactions to the Bill 
--------------------- 
 
7. (C) The Church of Latter-Day Saints (LDS Church) is 
particularly concerned about the article.  According to LDS 
Church International Legal Counsel Richard Page, the draft 
legislation, if adopted, has the potential to disrupt 
religious freedom.  He said the term "religious agitation" is 
not defined in the legislation and has no recognized meaning 
in Russian law.  As written, the legislation would 
 
MOSCOW 00012000  002 OF 002 
 
 
effectively place broad interpretive and enforcement 
discretion in the hands of the authorities.  Much of an LDS 
or other missionaries' day-to-day activity (handing out 
tracts, overtures issued in public places) could arguably 
fall within the scope of "religious agitation."  If the 
legislation were to pass in its current form, missionaries 
could potentially have their work disrupted by the 
authorities and/or complaina
nts. 
 
8. (C) Page said that the constitutionally-protected right to 
disseminate religious beliefs would be equated with religious 
agitation, and thus under the new legislation, acts aimed at 
exercising a constitutional right could be deemed punishable 
administrative offenses.  He emphasized that this did not 
mean that limits on missionary activities could not be 
introduced.  He agreed with a 1999 Constitutional Court 
decree that the state is entitled to prevent missionary 
activity when it is accompanied by an offer of material gain 
or social benefits, when it seeks to influence individuals in 
distress, psychological pressure, or when it is accompanied 
by threats of force.  These instances are not covered by the 
draft legislation. 
 
9. (C) Vladimir Ryakhovskiy, a lawyer with the Slavic Law 
Center, said it was too early to assess the article, since 
there is still a chance that it will not be included in the 
final version of the law.  He expects that if it were 
included, it would be used selectively to harass certain 
religious groups. 
 
------- 
Comment 
------- 
 
10. (C) The vague definition in the draft legislation of what 
constitutes "religious agitation" is a concern, and if passed 
in its current form, could be used to restrict missionary 
activity, depending on its interpretation by the authorities. 
 The Ambassador has already addressed this issue with Moscow 
Mayor Yuriy Luzhkov.  He will also bring its potential 
consequences to the attention of Human Rights Ombudsman Lukin 
and Kremlin Human Rights Council Chairperson Ella Pamfilova. 
Embassy will also meet with Moscow City Duma Chairman 
Vladimir Platonov. 
BURNS

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